Before the broadcasters started piling money into the Premier League, reaching an FA Cup final was the pinnacle of a player’s career, the highlight of their season. Young boys dreamed of playing at Wembley and lifting that famous trophy. The television coverage would be on for hours, everybody would gather round their television screens in the middle of the day whether their team was involved or not. In recent years however, the FA Cup has lost its appeal slightly with managers using the early stages in particular to blood younger players and give senior players a rest. In recent years, the final of the competition has even been played on the same day as League fixtures taking away from its appeal. However, it seems to be on the way back up as four of the League’s top five teams made it to the semi-final stages this season.
Over the years, the FA Cup Final has produced so much that has shocked us, enthralled us and entertained us. From Wigan shocking Manchester City to win their first FA Cup back in 2013 to Eric Cantona’s volley for Manchester United against their arch rivals Liverpool in 1996 to Second Division side, Sunderland beating the great Don Revie’s Leeds United side back in 1973, it is clear that the FA Cup Final has produced its fair share of magic. I will examine four such moments from FA Cup Finals throughout the years that have enthralled viewers and are still talked about to this day.
No.1- Sir Alex Ferguson’s First Trophy (FA Cup Final 1990)- Many of us will remember Sir Alex Ferguson as being one of the greatest managers ever, having spent 26 years at United, winning countless trophies in the process. However, it did not start out that way for Ferguson. He joined the club in 1986 from Aberdeen and enjoyed a slow start with a squad that was falling apart. He overhauled the squad, bringing players such as Bruce, Ince, Phelan, Hughes and Pallister who would go on to become household names and they peaked just in time for the 1989-1990 season where they went on to win the FA Cup. The final was a cracker, Crystal Palace were the opposition and the match ended 3-3 with Mark Hughes and one Ian Wright scoring a brace each for their club, forcing the tie to a replay. The replay itself was a rather less entertaining one with Lee Martin scoring the only goal in the game which secured Ferguson’s first trophy as Manchester United manager. It was the start of greatness for the man who would go on to lead United to become the first English club to secure a treble.
No.2- Second Division side, Sunderland overcome Don Revie’s Leeds United to win the trophy (FA Cup Final 1973)- In the 1970’s, Sunderland were a side who were lagging in the second division whilst Leeds were flying it in the First Division, having been runners up for the previous three seasons under the stewardship of Don Revie, widely regarded as one of the world’s best ever managers. However, that season Sunderland enjoyed a miraculous FA Cup run defeating teams such as Notts County, Reading, Manchester City and Arsenal on their way to the final of the competition. The final ended 1-0 thanks to a goal from Ian Porterfield. Goalkeeper, Jimmy Montgomery gave a man of the match performance to deny a Leeds side featuring players such as the iconic Irish pundit, John Giles and Scottish centre back, Gordon McQueen amongst others. This will go down in history as one of the greatest ever footballing shocks ever.
No.3- Eric Cantona’s goal to defeat Liverpool (FA Cup final 1996)- With both Manchester United and Liverpool both struggling to win big trophies at the moment, their fans like to entertain each other with classic, memorable encounters between the two. One such encounter was the 1996 FA Cup Final between the two teams at a time when the two teams were going in opposite directions. United had won three League titles in four years and had been in three FA Cup Finals in the past three seasons whilst Liverpool were struggling, having not won a league title 1990 (this is still to this day the last time the club last won a league title) and an FA Cup since 1992. The game itself was pretty drab with both team’s playmaker, Eric Cantona and Steve McManaman being marked well by the opposing midfield players. Neither Schmeichel or James in goal were tested very much. The game was decided by a Cantona volley from just outside the box in the 85th minute, that will stay in United’s fans memories for a long time. Liverpool goalkeeper David James could only lie and watch after he deflected the ball into the frenchman’s feet.
No.4- Wigan Shocking Manchester City to win their first trophy in their 81 year history (FA Cup Final 2013)- The 2013 season will be best remembered for Wigan winning the FA Cup, beating a side who had finished second in the league, and getting relegated to the Championship in the same year. The Cup Final spelt the end for both managers with one on his way to be sacked whilst the other was on his way to a bigger club. It represented a chance for both managers to sign off with a final hurrah and end their time at the club with silverware. The game was exciting and full of action with Wigan capitalising on the fact that City were struggling to play with the fluency and skill associated with the club at this time. Their big players such as Silva, Aguero and Toure didn’t show up on the day at all and their full back, Pablo Zabaleta got himself sent off late on in the game. Wigan looked comfortable having the lion’s share of possession on the day with Dave Watson, an 81st minute substitute, getting his head to a Shaun Maloney corner to put the ball past Hart in the City net just seconds after the fourth official had signalled three minutes of injury time. Wigan just had to hold off for a couple more minutes and when the whistle went, they were the ones celebrating the greatest day in their club’s short history.
The FA Cup Final has over the years seen its fair share of shocks, entertainment and magic. Will this weekend’s final featuring Chelsea and Arsenal see the same? Tune in on Saturday at 5.30 and see.